When did the need for structure first begin to limit your creativity? I think it began for me in kindergarten when the teacher insisted that I had to color within the lines. I don’t remember if I asked “Why?” or not, but I do know that there was no option. Of course, my teacher wife and daughter would assure me that this has something to do with developing small motor skills, but I still wonder about the practice and what’s so important about “coloring within the lines.”
The same is true in the church. Early on, each of us was ingrained with the idea of “this is the way we do church.” Imagine my surprise as a teenager when I discovered that other people (including other Baptists) did church in different ways. I did not find this threatening but rather exciting!
Those of us who work in the church today must address the fact that we have been trained to avoid creativity and temper our curiosity. We have been encouraged to maintain a structure not to modify it. Not only church members but ministers are threatened by change. If we change, what will be the consequences? How will it affect me? Will I have to do something different or learn a new skill? As William Bridges says, “It is not that we don’t like change; we don’t like BEING changed.”
Perhaps the most challenging step of the CHANGE process is nurturing curiosity and creativity. I think there is a fear that if we become too creative in the way that we do church, we might not recognize what we have created. Will it still be “church”?
A historical perspective might help. If we went back to the first century, would we expect Christians to be “doing church” in the same ways that we do now? We really don’t need to go back that far to see how things have changed. If you are Baptist and remember the six-point record system, Sunday night worship, week-long revival meetings, and Church Training, you realize that the church you attend today is different from the one of your youth.
If you have someone in the church who says, “We’ve never done it that way before,” I think you can assure them that somewhere in some era of church history, there are have been Christians who have done just about anything to further the church’s mission—house churches, bi-vocational leaders, faith missions, and so on.
If we are truly to fulfill our God-given mission, we must consider all the options that our curiosity and creativity can devise.
(This blog post originally appeared here on July 10, 2016.)